Ogwumike leads USA over Stanford, 95-80, national team kicks off campaign for gold in Tokyo
- Pac-12 to enjoy heightened visibility during USA Basketball November tour; Ogwumike and Clarendon represent
STANFORD, Calif. – “It was probably everything that we hoped it would be, Stanford’s very difficult to play against. We got exactly what we needed.”
Cheryl Reeve, co-coach of the USA Women’s National Team, summed up the squad’s 95-80 win against the Cardinal, the first contest of the USA’s four-game NCAA exhibition tour. The audience for the exciting matchup included WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert as well as players from the 1996 USA gold medal team: former Stanford players Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding. Azzi and Steding along with the ’96 coach Tara VanDerveer were honored at halftime. Then, VanDerveer went right back to the sideline to coach Stanford.
For the national team, the 95-80 victory provided players with a chance to square up against good competition as they begin their campaign to win a seventh-straight Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games next summer. From a fan perspective, the event was a rare opportunity to see former Stanford and California stars wearing a USA uniform.
Playing at her alma mater, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Oguwmike led all players with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds plus four assists. In college, she never lost a game at Maples Pavilion. During the postgame presser, she reminded everyone with a smile: “I’m still undefeated at Maples.”
Teammate A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina) was also in double digits with 22 points and six rebounds.
The USA players came into the game fresh off an intense summer of WNBA play. And for several, the break between professional play and USA Basketball training was just a little over a month. As a result, the national team does not have the cohesiveness and chemistry of college teams that have been practicing for weeks and with players who have been together for a few years.
Stanford came out strong with a balanced scoring effort to amass an 18-9 lead at 2:08 in the first quarter, their largest of the game. The USA trailed 20-15 after the first quarter but turned things around in the second to outscore the Cardinal 29-17 and headed into halftime with a 44-37 lead.
“Stanford came out and they were ready to play,” said USA center Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/LSU) who finished with nine points and five rebounds. “They came out strong and they were running out all over the place. But, it’s always good to have veterans like Sue [Bird] and Diana [Taurasi]. They get you to calm down and get you to just play your game.”
Stanford fought back to outscore the USA 25-24 in the third quarter, but the effort was not enough to put them in a position to win especially as the national team went on a 10-2 run in the middle of the last quarter to seal the deal.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal saw outstanding efforts from many players including some underclassmen. Senior guard DiJonai Carrington and junior guard Kiana Williams had 17 points each. Carrington also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists. Williams grabbed six rebounds. Sophomore guard Lexie Hull was also in double figures with 11 points.
Both Ogwumike and Reeve complimented the play of Hull. “She got us a few times,” Ogwumike said. For the USA, the game had “a lot of subplots” according to Reeve.
“You know in the first quarter I didn’t think we’d make it to 40 points the way we were going,” she said when discussing the early portion of the game. She commented that she knew “Stanford was going to give us their best shot early in the game.”
Several USA players are coming off injuries that prevented them from playing for most of the WNBA season including guards Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx/LSU), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury/UConn), and Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/UConn). In addition, guard Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings/Notre Dame) missed the entire season as she gave birth to her son in the spring.
But the adversity was a good thing for the veterans.
“Having to find your way back into a game, there’s value in that’s,” Reeve said. “And, exactly what we want from this tour as we lead into the qualifications. There was a subclass of good things happening with five perimeter players that are coming off of injuries….So, what we were hopeful for was that they would get good minutes and good things would happen.”
“It was nice to get the win,” Bird said. “It was great playing against some college kids. We always expect them to throw the first punch because they’re always excited, and that’s what happened in the first quarter. But I was really proud of our team because we only had one practice and we made it work.”
While the game may have served as a utilitarian tune-up for the USA, “winning the game, first and foremost, that was a priority,” Reeve said.
“The next time we play, we will be a little bit better and have a little more chemistry to what we’re doing and just build that momentum.”
The USA tour continues its tour with a trip to Oregon State on Nov. 4 followed by matchups at Texas A&M and Oregon.
- The USA’s head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina) and assistant coach Jennifer Rizzoti (George Washington) could not attend the game due to commitments with their college teams. The NCAA Division I regular season begins Tuesday, Nov. 5.
- Guard Chelsea Gray was not available this weekend as she got married over the weekend. Her teammate Nneka Ogwumike, left right after USA practice Friday morning to attend the wedding and flew back to the Bay area Saturday morning to play.
- USA Basketball added Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray (South Carolina) to the touring team in late October to replace 2019 WNBA champion forward Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics/Delaware) who injured her back during the WNBA Finals.
Remaining Tour Schedule
Oregon State vs. Team USA – Monday, Nov. 4, 7:00 p.m. PT
Play-by-play: Ann Schatz
Analyst: Mary Murphy
Available on Pac-12 Network, the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Texas A&M vs. Team USA – Thursday, Nov. 7, 7:00 p.m. CT
Oregon vs. Team USA – Saturday, Nov. 9, 4:00 p.m. PT
Play-by-play: Ann Schatz
Analyst: Mary Murphy
Available on the Pac-12 Now app, Pac-12 Oregon and Pac-12.com